Posted by: bkivey | 22 April 2010

Carbon Credit?

With the days-long shutdown of air travel in Europe due to the recent volcanic eruption I have noticed the deafening silence from the environmental bloc on the thousands of metric tons of carbon emissions that have NOT been emitted. Given the relentless hue-and-cry over the alleged environmental damage done by modern technology one would think that any event that reduced man-made carbon emissions would be welcomed by these folks. Instead, what we’ve seen is a lot of crying over the inconvenience of not being able to use the very technology that some of the very same people spend time loudly disparaging. Not a word about how good all this is for the planet.

Hmmm.

I can’t believe that all of these people are complaining because they all bought carbon offsets and aren’t getting their money’s worth. Nor have I heard of any groundswell of support for bringing back trans-Atlantic ship travel. The fact is that the only practical way to travel across large bodies of water is by aircraft. For those who don’t want to spend days in transit it’s the only way to travel any sort of long distance. Yet hardly a week goes by that there isn’t some sort of story about how bad air travel is for the environment. Are we to believe that it’s okay to travel by air as long as we feel suitably guilty about it? This seems to be the mindset of a large number of people about any sort of technology: I’ll use it but I’ll feel really bad about it so that makes it okay. This is incoherent.

Because I don’t regularly watch European TV, I don’t know if any enterprising reporters walked around the airport transit lounges asking people if they felt good about helping the planet as a result of not being allowed to fly. I suspect that the number of people who answered such a question in the affirmative would have been vanishingly small. Apparently technology is evil until one is personally inconvenienced by lack of access to it and then, what? Are you going to talk about how much better life is because the planet is being ‘saved’? Judging by the way people have reacted to the current crisis: no.

Unless one grows all of their own food, makes everything (and I do mean everything) else, and walks or travels by horseback, then one’s very existence will depend on some machine, somewhere, emitting large amounts of carbon. Managing and reducing carbon emissions is a fine: making any process more efficient is inherently cool; but to call for the wholesale elimination of carbon-producing processes, especially without offering economically viable alternatives, is immature and unperceptive at best.  Perhaps a few of those who spent days in an airport trying to get home will realize that the technology they have been villifying is maybe not such a bad thing after all.

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